Nanogenerators: Move, Shake, and Drop to Charge Your Gadgets

It took a long time but scientists have finally developed the first nanogenerator that could be available commercially to the whole world in a matter of a few years.

With how things are working out for this technology and at the pace that it's being developed, you could soon be powering up your electronic gadgets simply by moving your body and going about your daily tasks just as you do today.

A nanogenerator is actually a flexible chip that is comprised of zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires which are piezoelectrics. These can generate an electric current when subjected to any strain which can virtually come from any body movement such as walking or reaching over to pick something up. This sort of technology has been around for a long time but the currents generated were so weak and not powerful enough that it wouldn't have made sense to take it to the next level then.

The team of scientists headed by Dr. Zhong Lin Wang delved into the nanogenerator's inner workings and have found a way to multiply the power output of the device by thousands of times, which is why the technology can finally be put to good use outside the laboratory.

“This development represents a milestone toward producing portable electronics that can be powered by body movements without the use of batteries or electrical outlets,” Dr. Zhong Lin Wang explained. “If we can sustain the rate of improvement, the nanogenerator may find a broad range of other applications that require more power."

As an example, he added that personal electronic devices can be powered by footsteps by fitting nanogenerators inside the sole of the shoes. The technology also touches on the medical field by way of powering implanted insulin pumps by connecting these to a nanogenerator that is driven by the heart's beating.

The next step for the scientists is to improve the power output further and find a company that can produce the nanogenerator. Dr. Wang estimated that the device can be made commercially available in a span of three to five years.

The study was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Science Foundation.

Source: American Chemical Society